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Lenten Bible Study – Day 29

Monday, March 22, 2021 – Day 29
 
Luke 15: 4-7
4‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.
 
There was a commercial on TV a while back – for what I don’t know – where a young couple were driving somewhere, and after a stop, he (you knew it was the guy, right?) could not find his sunglasses. The two of them looked everywhere. They backtracked every place they had been that day. No luck. Finally, late in the day, he was coming out of a cave they had visited, and a bunch of bats flew out. He put his hood up and the sunglasses fell out of the hood. The young man looked a bit sheepish, but you could tell he was overjoyed! Even the young woman had to smile.
 
This parable and that commercial speak to me! When I have ever lost something that has some kind of value to me, whether monetary or sentimental, even if I don’t need right then, the fact I don’t know where it is drives me nuts! Looking for it becomes a virtual obsession. I cannot rest (at least not well) until I find it. And if I never find it, I always wonder about it.
 
This parable is about that kind of obsession. The kingdom of God is like that. The shepherd lost a sheep. The shepherd obsesses over the sheep until the sheep is found. Then there is a celebration. Even the neighbors are invited over! Can you imagine inviting the neighbors over each time you found your lost keys? But that is what happens in heaven when one lost soul is found. All the heavenly hosts gather together and celebrate.
 
God is obsessed with finding and saving lost souls. God was obsessed with you and me. When we were found, there was a celebration in the kingdom. They did that for you. They did that for me.
 
Prayer:
Dear God, thank you for rescuing me when I was lost. Your amazing grace is sweet and sure. Amen.


Lenten Bible Study – Day 28

Saturday, March 20, 2021- Day 28
 
Luke 14:28-33
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
 
This parable is often labeled as “counting the cost”, which is very appropriate. Jesus tells us numerous times he does not want us to be lukewarm. What he calls us to be is all in disciples. People that are willing to drastically change their lives because of their love for God. The fact is our lives should look different to people who don’t have faith. Our lives should be different because we love Jesus. This doesn’t just mean it’s a list of things we don’t do because we are Christians. In fact, it is more of a list of things we do! We should care for, love, share, and give different. We should act humbly, compassionately, and tenderheartedly. That is what the scripture is telling us, if you want to be a follower you need to be different, so before you make a decision add up the costs and decide.
 
I have felt this struggle recently after having a discussion in a small group. The discussion centered on an estimate that there are around 27 million slaves in the world today. The question was, how did I contribute to the slavery? We were directed to a website called slaveryfootprint.org where we take a short quiz to see if what we bought contributed to slaves (You should do this it is eye opening). The idea is that if you buy certain products it may be from a corporation that gets certain products from an area of the world that uses slaves. A huge problem years ago was that a vast amount of cocoa beans where from Ghana, which was notorious for using child slaves. Our chocolate candy corporations where buying cheap cocoa to make chocolate. If we buy that chocolate it creates a higher demand which needs increased slaves.
 
The problem is that many of our things are actually at least partially produced by slaves. It can be so overwhelming that many people do not want to bother checking before having a snack or buying shoes. We even found churches to be a major contributor when purchasing palms for Palm Sunday (JMPC does buy fair trade). While it is overwhelming and time consuming I will ask you, what should we do as believers of Jesus Christ? Should we ignore it or consider ourselves okay since we are a few steps removed from making slaves? Do we know that these slaves are children of God and are we treating them as such?
 
This of course is just one example of counting the cost of discipleship, we all know there are many more. However, it is a very important cost, and it is up to us to decide how we follow Jesus. Discipleship is not just something we can take part in when we want to, and Jesus is warning us of that in this parable. We must be willing to stretch ourselves to love others. We must seek out justice for all people in the world. We must give up of ourselves, so that others may see and know of our God. That is what Jesus did for us on Easter. It is in that love that we need to respond in true and unflinching discipleship.
 
Prayer:
 Jesus, give us the ability to be followers of you on a full-time basis. Do not let us bargain with you on our faith, trying to let ourselves out of the commitment. Let us be strong and live into true discipleship with you. Amen 


Lenten Bible Study – Day 27

Friday, March 19, 2021 – Day 27
 
Luke 14: 16-24
16Then Jesus said to him, ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.”19Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” 20Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” 21So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” 22And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” 23Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.24For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” ’
 
There is nothing worse than last minute cancellations from guests invited to a dinner party. You have planned the meal so that everyone will get enough to eat and drink. You have also planned the guest list so that the conversation will be engaging yet not too controversial. Now someone cancels. The whole event is now out of balance. Too much food and drink. Not enough conversation. So, you ask why they cannot come and the excuse is … well … lame. What is the chance you will invite that person to your next dinner party?
 
But you have all this food! What do you do? Some years back the people that lived next to my family had a party planned. For reasons I was never told, most of the guests did not come. So, they came over to our house and said that they had a bunch of food and plenty to drink and did we want to come over for dinner? They went to every door on the block. We all gathered at their house and had an impromptu block party! We had a great time and got to know each other. It worked out well.
 
That is what the Kingdom of God is like. It is a dinner party that we are all invited to. How we got on the guest list, we do not know, but we are expected to come because … well … who wouldn’t? But at the last minute we cancel. The excuses we give are lame. Too busy. More important things to do. Not sure we will like the food. The question, then, is do we expect to be asked again? Maybe not? Maybe we missed out chance.
 
I read this parable as the answer to the question of universality of salvation. Is everyone saved? Well, I think everyone is invited. But some don’t accept. How many times will the invitation come? Do we want to wait and find out? Or just come to dinner with Jesus right now? It’s like the invitation to Communion. Everyone is welcome, but you have to show up.
 
Prayer:
Dear God, thank you for the invitation to be a part of your Kingdom. Please know I will be there to share food and drink and lively conversation … and I hope to stay, forever. Amen.



JMPC Sunshine 03.26.2021

Back around the turn of the century, I went on a mission trip with the high school youth group from my church. This was long before I became a pastor. I was just an adult volunteer. It was the second such trip I had chaperoned. In the previous year, I learned that one person was responsible for feeding the kids and adults their three meals and a snack every day for 6 days. There were a lot of people to feed. For reasons that I cannot explain, I volunteered to be the “cook” for the upcoming trip. I was given a book titled “Feeding Fifty” along with a pat on the back and the church credit card. I prepared the menu for each day. The only advice I got from the previous year’s cook was not to buy generic because the kids won’t eat it. When we arrived at the mission site, I was dropped off at the local grocery store and started to buy the food we would need. Probably about 8 carts full (they set up a special lane for me every time I came in and gave me every special they had running). My daily schedule thereafter was basically to give the kids breakfast (surprisingly easy because few ate it), put out lunch food so they could make their own lunches (not as easy), go to the store to buy 8 more carts of food (they knew me by name and I was very popular in the store), head back to the church where we were staying, unload the groceries and start getting dinner ready. This was all done by me, alone. I did not get to go to any of the work sites. Surprisingly, there were few complaints about the food. Yet, I was always in the kitchen, one of the “chaperones” and so basically ignored by the kids. I’m pretty sure a lot of them did not even know who I was. Here is the interesting thing. It was maybe my favorite youth mission trip. Even though few, if any, of those kids remember who cooked for them that week, they did the mission work, had great fellowship, and learned a bit about Jesus. I had a part in that. What does that have to do with the disciples? With Palm Sunday? It’s this. Jesus sent two disciples to get the colt he was to ride into Jerusalem. Who were they? No one knows. Join us Sunday at 10am in the John McMillan Presbyterian Church parking lot and/or on Facebook Live for Palm Sunday – this coming Sunday! – and hear something about the rest of the disciples.



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